Shakespeare at 400: 'Henry VI' and 'Richard III'

Shakespeare at 400: 'Henry VI' and 'Richard III'

For the first look at quotations from works by William Shakespeare (1564-1616), let’s look at two plays about kings of England: “King Henry VI” and “King Richard III.” (Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations uses the word king in each title, but I’ll dispense with it occasionally if the meaning remains clear.)

“Henry VI” is an interesting mix of very familiar and somewhat familiar, perhaps misquoted. As for the very familiar:

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

— Part II, Act IV, Scene 2

“She’s beautiful and therefore to be wooed,

She is a woman, therefore to be won.”

— Part I, Act V, Scene 3


As for the less familiar, well, I have nothing to lose here:

“Having nothing, nothing can he lose.”

— Part III, Act III, Scene 1


“Richard III,”meanwhile, is also home to one of Bartlett’s more Familiar Quotations:

“A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!”

— Act V, Scene 4


But “Richard III” also has a quotation that people ought to, well, harp on more:

“Harp not on that string.”

— Act IV, Scene 3


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  • I wouldn't kill them. Just debar them.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Well done, and compassionate, too!

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